As you may have read in our interview with Jim Bergantino, a few years ago he launched the B|amp, a 800w class D amp with a range of digital signal processing (DSP) features allowing the user to match the amp to a range of Bergantino cabs.
It’s been a great success, and now Bergantino have launched the Forté, a head with the same power as the B|amp but with fewer features and at a lower price. How does it match up when plugged into the company’s HDN-112 and 210 cabs?
Although the Forté amp’s case is made from steel, its size and the lightness of the digital amp inside means that the whole thing weighs just 2.7kg (6 lbs). It’s a bit bigger than some of the new generation of class D micro amps currently available, but you could still carry it in your gig bag and hardly know it was there.
The understated, black front panel with its clear, well laid-out functions oozes cool efficiency. For instance, the oversized Master volume reminds me of the perfectly weighted volume control on them by touch alone on a dim stage. The frequency centres of the four-band EQ are specifically chosen and scaled for bass, and the added variable rate compressor, Bright switch and Aux in for practice are welcome and useful additions.
The quality of construction of Bergantino cabs is well-documented. Like all the cabs in the HDN range, they’re made from best-quality lightweight Italian poplar ply, and covered in a hard black tolex. Our only worry is that the relatively lightweight steel speaker grilles could be a little vulnerable to damage should the cabs ever be seriously mistreated. In reality though, most owners will keep them in covers until they’re used; we have to say that our own HDN-212 cab, which has been gigged hard for several years now, still looks almost as good as the day we bought it.
Inside these cabs, all of the components are of Bergantino design. The custom-built, precision-cast frame drivers, which are attached to rigid Baltic birch ply baffles, feature neodymium magnet technology that keeps weight to a minimum. Both the 1x12 and 2x10 cabs are an easy one-person carry, and either should fit into the boot of an average car.
Hook up the Forté to the HDN-210 cabinet, and you have a compact, lightweight rig that will outperform many others, including some that are bigger. The 8-ohm cab draws around 400 watts from the amp, which isn’t a huge amount by current standards, but the high efficiency and 99db sensitivity of the cab means that there’s no shortage of volume or headroom.
We soon discovered that for us, the Forté’s EQ was largely redundant. Starting with everything flat and the Bright and Compressor functions turned off, the sound from my Fender Jazz Elite bass was just about spot-on. Although we found that fiddling with the EQ and switching the Bright button on and off was useful for tone adjustment when needed, for the most part the EQ controls didn’t stray far from their 12 o’clock positions. We eventually settled on the natural sound of the amp, a clean and detailed carbon-copy of the bass’s natural tone.
There’s a sweet, musical quality to this rig which is almost at odds with the thundering volume and headroom available. When playing with the gain and Master Volume cranked up, we could still just about sense the presence of the compressor. Even when set to its minimum, it’s of very high quality and completely noiseless - definitely a valuable addition.
As good as the Forté with the HDN210 cab is, our favourite setup was the amp with the little 112 cab. For such a diminutive weight and footprint, you get a superbly defined bass tone with enough low end and volume for small to medium gigs, or for use as a monitor on a bigger stage. For double bass or EUB players, the studio-monitor precision and wide, flat frequency response makes this little setup almost unrivalled.
We’ve always been able to rely on Bergantino for the highest standards of bass reproduction. That was certainly always true with regards to the cabs, and applies even more when either are hooked up to the Forté amp. Using the two cabs together draws 700 watts from the amp, and the volume and headroom are awe-inspiring, but for me this isn’t the most impressive aspect here.
A small cab with just one or two drivers may not be enough for those rock or metal players looking for ear-splitting volume and distortion, but if you want sniper-like accuracy with plenty of focused low end and a perfectly rendered mid and treble range, in a compact and lightweight package, then you can truly have your cake and eat it. Very, very impressive.